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A Long Journey

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Most everybody has a hero. Mine is Salim Paunwar, also known to me as Dad. I admire the way he goes through life having fun, but getting down to business when necessary. I know that he has come a long way from his childhood and he is proud of it. My dad has settled down in the United States, worked hard for our family, overcome obstacles to receive an education, but he still has his flaws.

My dad was born on March 3, 1954, in Pakistan. His mom and dad had moved to Pakistan from India in 1948 during the civil war. His mom was a Hindu and his dad a Muslim. My dadi, which is grandma in Urdu, converted to Islam so she could move to Pakistan and be with my dada, which means grandpa in Urdu. Salim stayed in boarding school most of his life because his dad was in a high position of the military; consequently, their family was moved around a lot. He has three brothers, one sister, and he is the second youngest in the family.

In 1972, my father made his journey to the United States at age seventeen. When he came to the U.S., all he had was one single suitcase and the clothes on his back. My dad came alone to the U.S. because his three older brothers had already started their careers as two generals in the army and one electrician. Salim was going to join the army, but my dadi wanted something different for him. The life in the United States was hard for him because of the different culture. In his first few months, he would get confused on some things, but eventually he felt more secure. After several months my dad began to feel homesick. It was not like you could drive back home, Pakistan is approximately twenty-four hours away from here by plane and long distance phone calls were unlikely because of the fees in that time period. Not only was his coming to the United States hard for him, it was also hard for his parents. They were concerned about his well-being and his ability to produce a bright future for himself.

My father went to school in Pakistan from the time he was old enough, through college. The reason that he came to the United States was because he wanted to get an education here as well as Pakistan. The change in education was a challenge because in Pakistan you go to school yearly instead of having a summer. That is why he was able to graduate from college at age seventeen. After a few months in college, my dad was forced to get a full time job to pay for college as well as take classes that added up to eighteen credits which was the standard for foreign students. His reasoning for this is that his father had been sending money over, but the value of a rupee dropped and it was not worth it to pay to have the money transferred over. My dad worked anywhere the pay was good or they would hire him. This meant grocery stores, factories, and restaurants. I suppose that it was fate that he worked at restaurants because he met my mom while working at a Burger Chef in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It ended up that my dad did not finish the degree that he had been working for, but he did get his bachelor’s degree in physics, mathematics, and statistics.

My dad stayed with the restaurant business working his way up a ladder in one corporation, then getting another job in a different one. He did this at many restaurants like Hardees, Burger Chef, and Donatos, but for the last eight years he has been working at Culver’s. He oversees many of the Culver’s in about eight states and rates each restaurant. One of the quotes that he always tells the franchise’s is “We’re in the people business.” This is one of the reasons that he is my hero because it shows that he is not in it for just the money, but he is also there to satisfy the customers. With his job though, there are consequences. He is gone a lot and since my mom is a stay at home mom, he has to work on papers or reviews when he is home also. It amazes me that he can be this busy and still have time for family, but he does it. My dad comes to most of my brother’s and my soccer games when he can work it through his schedule. He calls my brother in Florida almost every other day and calls my other brother in Ohio every couple days since he comes home on weekends. I really admire that he stays in touch with his side of the family in Pakistan; he calls them about every week or week and a half. This is definitely a challenge because there is a fourteen hour time difference so he usually calls them really late at night. All this effort he puts into everything puts stress on him so when I do something wrong he usually gets pretty angry with me and yells a lot. This is when my mom gives her little quote, “his bark is worse than his bite.” I recognize this too because I usually do not get a severe punishment. I am also able to handle a little yelling now and then because I know that all this hard work provides for our family and has given us everything that we have today.

Every hero in every book that I have read has a character flaw. For example, Odysseus cannot resist a challenge and puts his crew’s lives in peril. These hero flaws are no different in real life heroes. My dad’s flaw is that he is impatient when waiting on things. His impatience covers everything from waiting on food in a restaurant to me cleaning my room. As his son, I know that he cannot wait for me to put my clothes away or make the food himself because he has other more important things to do than watch me leave my socks on the ground. I have witnessed that he would rather not take ten minutes to eat a sandwich if he could take that ten minutes to do something worthwhile. After a second time of asking me to put my clothes away, my mom’s quote comes in again. Another flaw that he has is the way that he explains things. When he is telling you to do something on the computer, it may make sense in his mind but in yours, you cannot tell what he is saying. At this point he must take time to put it in a more simple form and gets impatient yet again. In this way, my dad is nothing like Odysseus.

There is a way that my dad is like Odysseus without a doubt. This is his attention to detail. At work, he is always catching people on missing the little things and then tells the person “Preparations and details.” Odysseus prepares a strategy and works out all the details before they happen. This is what my dad does for work. Even if something does not go as planned, my dad I able to work it out quickly and keep an operation going smoothly. I think that he gets this from playing and coaching soccer, he always told me to prepare for anything and think one step ahead of the offense.

My dad has read books and articles on leadership and is always talking about it, so I asked him what you had to have or be to be a leader. He began to list out things such as: a visionary, a communicator, a motivator, a great listener, have patience, be a role model, be a coach, and be a teacher. He said that he could say at least twenty things that you can do to become a leader. I definitely define my dad as a leader through coaching and teaching. He always encourages me to show these qualities sooner in life so I get a better future and teaches me little things that he did in school that really helped him out. After that, he said something that I tell some people on my soccer teams, “You may not be a leader, but everyone brings something to the team.” I define my dad as a hero because of his struggles to get to the United States and where he is today, his hard work through every period of his lifetime and school, and his occasional flaw coming from the stress of what he does to provide his family with its needs and a better future.





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